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published on January 16, 2020 - 1:25 PM
Written by Gabriel Dillard

Local farm advocacy groups and elected officials are celebrating the passage of the US-Canada-Mexico (USMCA) trade deal from the U.S. Senate. The vote tally was 89-10.

The agreement moves to the desk of President Donald Trump for his signature.

It would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA, which tore down most trade barriers and triggered a surge in trade. But Trump and other critics blamed that pact for encouraging U.S. companies to move their manufacturing plants south of the border to take advantage of low-wage Mexican laborers.

The International Trade Commission projected in April 2019 that the trade agreement would boost the economy by $68 billion and add 176,000 jobs six years after taking effect.

“Mexico and Canada have been vital trade partners over the years for our growers and shippers and the passage of USMCA out of the Senate today comes to the delight of the California fresh fruit industry. Our members look forward to continuing to provide the freshest fruit to consumers around the world,” stated Ian LeMay, president of the Fresno-based California Fresh Fruit Association.

Jamie Johansson, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said the trade pact will help farmers, ranchers and other agribusinesses throughout the state. Passage of the agreement was a top priority for the state’s farm bureaus and its nearly 34,000 members statewide.

“We’re grateful to the many California farmers and ranchers who contacted their elected representatives on behalf of USMCA, and we thank Senator Feinstein for her vote to approve the agreement,” Johansson said. “The USMCA will further open markets for California-grown food and agricultural products, and will benefit the tens of thousands of Californians whose jobs rely on farm exports to Canada and Mexico.

Johansson added that the agreement comes at the same time as the Phase 1 agreement of a trade breakthrough between the U.S. and China, which would also benefit California farm producers.

The association gave special thanks to Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Reps. Kevin McCarthy, Jim Costa, Devin Nunes, TJ Cox, Josh Harder and Jimmy Panetta.

State Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) applauded the passage, stating, “I am pleased to hear Congress has overwhelmingly approved the USCMA in a bipartisan fashion. This new agreement will benefit San Joaquin Valley farmers, farm workers, and the food industry for years to come. In 2019, Fresno County was ranked first in the nation in agricultural production, producing nearly $7.9 billion worth of agriculture. I am honored to represent the region well-known as the ‘Breadbasket of the World.'”

State Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), who represents parts of Tulare County, said the deal will strengthen the economy and help California farmers in their “admirable goal to feed the world.”

“I want to thank the President for his hard-work to help the United States and our workers with the USMCA,” Grove stated.

The California Chamber of Commerce was a supporter of the USMCA, stating it serves the employment, trading and environmental interests of California, the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

The organization pointed out that while Sen. Feinstein supported the agreement, California’s other Senator, Kamala Harris, did not.

Harris stated it did not go far enough in addressing climate change.

“Mexico and Canada are two of California’s strongest trading partners and trade with Mexico and Canada supports nearly 14 million U.S. jobs,” said Allan Zaremberg, CalChamber president and CEO. “The USMCA is a necessary modernization to NAFTA that recognizes the impacts of technology on the three countries’ economies.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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